Just how hard is it to climb Mt Bevin?

Climbing Mt Bevin, or any mountain in Antarctica, is a serious undertaking. The climb itself is expected to be moderate in terms of technical challenge, but the remoteness of the mountain and the climate of Antarctica add a layer of complexity. People often ask how hard will the climb be? No one has ever been there, so it is hard to really know. Here is our best guess.

The logistics of getting to the mountain and back again safely are somewhat complex. The ice-condition at the time and the judgement of the Ship’s Captain will determine the insertion point and ultimately the route taken. Two routes are currently under consideration.

Ideally the team will start from Robertson Bay and follow the Murray Glacier south. However typically Roberston Bay is jam-packed full of ice until mid January and a landing there can be very difficult even in ice free conditions. There are also some serious ice-cliffs that may impede progress onto the glacier. An alternative insertion point will be from Moubray Bay and then west along the Ironside Glacier. Unfortunately reports from the 1967 Mt Herschel Expedition indicate that this route is littered with crevasses and may not even be passable. Further and more detailed route planning is required. Regardless, classic glacier conditions and roped team travel are anticipated. Each team member will be carrying a substantial pack and pulling a loaded sled. Glacier travel can be slow and needs to be done with care to avoid nasty encounters with crevasses.

The most technical and hardest part of the climb is likely to be on the slopes of Mt Bevin. If the team is lucky it will be a relatively simple climb on packed snow to the summit and will be completed in a couple of days. If, however, the terrain and snow condition is more challenging, then extra work will be required to find a safe route up. There will be no pre-fixed ropes in place or other climbing teams to rescue us like there are on Denali or Vinson Massif.

The big unknown is the weather. Being near the coast the weather it is unpredictable at best. Much care needs to be taken to monitor the conditions and make sure retreats are available. A storm in Antarctica can last 3 days and be brutally cold. Probably the most important skill for the team members in cold weather climbing experience.

The following table provides a useful comparison between the conditions likely to be encountered on Mt Bevin to those of Denali and Vinson Massif.

Mt Bevin Mt Denali Vinson Massif
Height (meters) 3,490 6,168 4,892
Overall Altitude Gain (meters) 3,490 4,000 2,700
Distance from Start to Summit (kms) 40 25 20
Typical Temperature Range (°C) -20 to 0 -15 to +10 -15 to 0
Typical Climb Duration (Days) 21 18 16

The assessment is that Mt Bevin is comparable to Denali and Vinson Massif making it a tough, but doable climb. The remoteness of the mountain and the limited rescue and support options available make Mt Bevin a more complex undertaking than either of Denali or Vinson Massif. All members of the climbing team are expected to have experience on Denali, Vision Massif and at least one high altitude mountain like Everest or Manaslu.